Pandemic | Situation would have been worse without self-screening tests, analysis concludes

The upheavals caused by the COVID-19 pandemic would have been even more profound without the availability of self-screening tests that became ubiquitous during the health crisis, concludes an analysis conducted by a researcher at McGill University.

These tests were particularly effective in identifying individuals who were at two ends of the spectrum: those who were not sick and those who were more contagious.

This helped prevent transmission of the virus and limit the scale of the crisis, helping to minimize disruption to daily life.

“If they hadn’t been available and if people hadn’t used them, I think we would have had a lot more closures and lockdowns,” said study author Dr. Nitika Pant Pai. , from the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Center.

“So I think even though they seem very harmless, they have actually been a tool in our fight against the virus and the pandemic. Without testing, schools would not have been able to operate and workplaces would have closed more often. »

The study is comprised of a live systematic review and meta-analysis of 70 studies – with data from 25 countries – that assessed the diagnostic accuracy of rapid tests for COVID-19.

Researchers found that self-tests were very effective in identifying healthy individuals and symptomatic infected individuals. However, they were less reliable when identifying infected but asymptomatic individuals.

The researchers also found that the population shows a strong preference for self-screening tests, but that interest in repeated or daily use is low.

Self-testing strategies, the authors say, have reduced the number of school closures; minimized the number of missed work days; slowed transmission between healthcare workers; and allowed the continuation of social activities with a lower risk of infection.

The researchers note that advance training sessions, detailed instructions on self-testing in everyday language, and test kits specifically designed for low-literacy, rural, peri-urban, and elderly populations could further improve test performance and use by these populations. populations.

These findings provide lessons for the future, says Dr. Pant Pai. In the future, she believes, “public health agencies and governments should not hesitate to invest in accurate, rapid, portable and perhaps digitally enhanced self-testing strategies, such as apps, websites and video instructions, not only for respiratory viruses, but also for non-respiratory pathogens.”

“History repeats itself and everyone seems to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder because of the pandemic and we are not interested in understanding the lessons we should learn now,” she lamented. The likelihood of another respiratory pandemic is very high. But if we do not learn the necessary lessons, we (…) will start from scratch. »

The findings of this study were published by the medical journal PLOS Global Public Health.


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